This novel is limited to 100 free copies due to its part in Inkitt’s Novel Contest.
This takes place in an AU where the movie never happened, and Basil and Ratigan are still in an ongoing feud.
I can't keep the names of any of Ratigan's henchmen straight, so I made up a bunch of OCs to replace the originals. Please forgive me.
Volume I: Cecil the Swordsmouse
Gareth moved forward with quietness and discretion, slinking through the gutters without a single noise. Silently, the tough mice assigned to help him in his task followed close behind him, their presence only as visible as that of a shadow's.
The small crime lord whose house they were about to invade was deep in debt to Professor Padraic Ratigan. He was late on paying it back. Tonight, they would make him an example of what happened to those who didn't pay their debts to the Napoleon of crime.
Gareth snuck under a window and peeked in. He wrinkled his snout in disgust at the sight of Master Black, as he was called, with a “lady of the profession.” Master Black was one of the fattest, greasiest mice he'd ever seen – you could grease a whole human frying pan with him. Gareth motioned his men over. He signaled for them to ready themselves. He held up three fingers and started counting down. Three, Two, One –
They leaped up and crashed through the window - Gareth first, followed by his two deputies, Max and Morgan. The rest of the hit mice followed, wielding revolvers.
The crime lord squealed like a little girl – the prostitute fled from the room. Black would've been killed instantly, if he hadn't ducked under his desk and called for his guards.
Apparently, he'd been expecting something like this – about twenty mice armed to the teeth rushed into the room, ready for a fight. Gareth sneered at their inferior weapons – Professor Ratigan clearly paid his mice the best, out of all the rodent crime lords in London.
The henchmen all jumped into the fray, and the room was filled with smoke from the barrels of revolvers, loud gunshots, and – the clang of swords?
Gareth spun around from the corpse he'd just made. He saw Max, a short, skinny little weasel of a mouse, desperately dueling against one of Black's henchmen with his dagger. It didn't look like he'd last much longer.
The opponent in question wasn't very tall himself. He was a bit shorter than Gareth, who was only average. But he was well-built, and his fur, an off-white color, was probably the cleanest in the room. His eyes looked like green glass, and the look of patient determination on his face somehow emphasized his apparent youth. And yet, he looked extremely skilled. Though his clothes were worn, they were practical and well made – with his blue cap and jacket, he cut a princely figure amongst the room full of thugs and dead bodies. Gareth was intrigued.
Drawing his own sword, he jumped in and took Max's place. The smaller mouse gladly took Gareth's own with a sigh of relief. The sharpened sewing needle of the white-furred mouse clashed with Gareth's long and flexible tailor's pin. As they struggled against each other's strength, Gareth raised an eyebrow in appreciation of the quality of his opponent's blade. “Nice craftsmanship. Did you make it yourself?”
“As a matter of fact, I did.” The young mouse thrust from the side, and Gareth dodged the attack, parrying with his own sword. The fight continued for some time, pitting Gareth's experience against the white mouse's agility and skill.
In the end, when the rest of the fight was over, Master Black dead and mutilated, and all the other henchmen had either fled or had been killed, Gareth and the white mouse were still dueling. The rest of Ratigan's mice were left staring dumbfounded at the two of them – one a full adult, filthy and gray, with clothes dyed brown from all the dried blood he'd had to wash out of the cloth, and the other youthful, spry, and white as linen, dressed in blue and black.
At last, the young mouse disarmed Gareth with swift cut to his sword hand, kicking his blade out of reach. Instantly, Morgan, a huge lumbering mouse that one could almost mistake for a rat (almost – he wasn't quite as large or tall as their boss), appeared in front of Gareth, pounding his fist into his palm. The youth's eyes widened, and he moved in a defensive stance.
“Stop.” Gareth pushed Morgan aside. “See here, lad. You're the last one standing here. You ain't got an employer anymore. Even if you run, no one'll hire you, because they'll know how you survived the attack. And for a mouse as young as you are, that can't be good for your reputation, nor your, ah, career. But I'm willin' to make a proposition. You willing to listen?”
Warily, the mouse nodded.
“See here – Professor Ratigan – he's our boss – is always looking for new, skilled mice such as yourself. If you was to give him a demonstration of your prowess....well, I'm his lieutenant, an' I think he'd be willing let you into his employ. I don't doubt you know who he is – and trust me, he pays well. When you work for the Professor, you're successful, you're feared, an' you're let into any bar you want. Lots of perks, lots of advantages. So what do you say you put that sword away and come back with us, lad, eh? I know you've impressed me – you might just impress Ratigan.”
Still in a defensive position, the young mouse glanced warily around at the crowd of henchmen waiting to pounce. “If I want to live, it doesn't look as though I have a lot of choice.” His voice was soft, cultured, and high-pitched. How old was he? Around fifteen? Sixteen? Barely more than a boy.
“That'd be correct, laddie. I'm not sayin' the job ain't a nice one. Drink pink champagne every day, or be riddled with holes. I think it's a pretty obvious choice, lad,” Gareth offered, holding out his hand.
The white mouse considered it for a few moments. He sheathed the needle into a long, thin leather pocket attached to his belt. Gareth noticed for the first time that the lad was using the eye of the needle as a handle. Clever.
“A good choice, son. What's your name?”
“Cecil. Cecil Burns.”
Cecil was being led blindfolded through the pipes – his hands, however, were unbound, so he could reach his sword at any time. Not that he would – you'd have to be a complete idiot to try something like that in his situation. One didn't threaten Ratigan, or his men, without a considerable amount of reinforcements.
They reached the hideout and pressed on into Ratigan's study. The Professor waited there, and turned around with a shark-like grin. “Gareth! You're back in one piece! I trust you have my money?”
Gareth tossed a burlap bag onto Ratigan's desk with a proud smirk. “All twenty thousand quid, boss. As he owed.”
“Excellent,” Ratigan purred. He paused, and raised his eyebrows. “And I see you have a guest.” His tone was light, but what was left unspoken was obvious – If you've brought me something I don't like, I can always feed you to my cat.
Gareth yanked the blindfold off the white mouse's face. “This here is Cecil Burns.” The young white mouse stared up at the great, infamous Ratigan. Gareth felt a wave of sympathy for the lad. Ratigan was always more huge and threatening than one expected, even for his fearsome reputation. “He's one of the best swordsmice I've ever had the pleasure of fighting, sir. He was working for Black when we found him – he agreed to come along with us, if he got the chance of working for you.”
Ratigan skeptically raised an eyebrow. “Indeed? Just how skilled?”
Max spoke up. “'E disarmed 'im, boss.” Gareth raised his bandaged hand to corroborate this statement.
“Well,” Ratigan drawled. His eyes bored down at the young white mouse, giving Cecil the shivers. “I suppose, I could give him a chance. Gareth,” Ratigan snapped. His lieutenant jumped to attention. “You know that heist we have planned for Friday?”
“If....Cecil....here can take Morgan's place on that heist, then I'll let him into the fold. Let us call it a little test, shall we? Until Friday, he can stay with Doctor Jones.”
Gareth nodded in agreement. Doctor Jones was the surgeon for Ratigan's men – it made sense to have a potential recruit stay with him until he proved himself.
“What say you to that, Mister Burns?”
All the mice in the room stiffened as Ratigan directly addressed Cecil.
The tension was so thick you could cut it with a knife. Cecil slowly raised his head and briefly, boldly, met eyes with the most feared crime lords in London.
“That sounds like an excellent idea, Professor Ratigan.”
All the other mice in the room breathed a quiet sigh of relief. Ratigan twisted his mouth into an amused smile. And yet, there was still a quiet, almost indiscernible tension between the newcomer and the Napoleon of crime. Their thoughts, respectively, as Cecil was escorted from the room:
I don't care how terrifying you may seem. You're still just a mouse. I will treat you with just as much respect as I treated Master Black, perhaps more, but I refuse to fear you. I got into this business to be respected and admired out of infamy, not to be stepped down on. I won't let you step on me.
You're an enigma, Mister Burns. An interesting, handsome, and obviously highborn puzzle. I will decipher you, my dear Cecil. I will figure you out, learn what makes you so intriguing. Learn why you speak like the aristocracy, learn why you are so bold. I want to learn everything about you. I'm sure it won't be boring.
Next up! – Volume II: Cecil the Master Thief!
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